Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani, chairman of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and a recipient of the Medal of Valor for extraordinary heroism in the Yom Kippur War, has been named the key recipient of this year’s President’s Medal of Distinction.

President Shimon Peres, together with two key members of the advisory committee – Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s fifth president, and former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar – made the announcement Thursday.

The President’s Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian award, was introduced by Peres in February of last year. It honors individuals and organizations for unique and significant contribution to Israeli society and civilization in general and to the enhancement of Israel’s global image.

Among its recipients are US President Barack Obama, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former US president Bill Clinton.

New recipients named with Kahalani are Auschwitz survivor and internationally acclaimed novelist and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel; Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg, whose archives of testimony by Holocaust survivors will serve future generations as the most meaningful and authentic oral history of the period; physicist Dr. Harry Zvi Tabor, recognized as the pioneer of Israel’s solar energy systems; Rabbi Elimelech Firer, who with his vast supply of medical contacts has helped save thousands of lives; Avi Naor, chairman and founder of Or Yarok (Green Light), the association for safer driving that he established after his 12-year-old son Ran was killed in a traffic accident; and a member of Israel’s defense establishment whose name, for security reasons, must remain classified.

Kahalani, born to immigrant parents from Yemen, was a career soldier whose bravery in the Six Day War earned him a Distinguished Service Medal.

Though seriously wounded when his tank caught fire, Kahalani – after months of recuperating – remained in the IDF. During the Yom Kippur War, he commanded the Oz 77th armored battalion on the Golan Heights. That battle proved to be one of the major turning points in the war.

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